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Assessing and selecting: Assessing websites

Part of the Information Literacy Portal

Relevance

Information suitable for question and purpose
  • Does the information answer your research question?
  • Does the information fit in with the questions you have and/or with the target audience?
  • Does the information on the website represent a general picture?
  • Is this website, or an article/pdf on that site, suitable as source for your research?
Exhaustive
  • Does the website portray a complete picture? Do you need to consult additional sources?
Up-to-date
  • Is current and up-to-date information important for your research?
  • When was the information posted online?
  • When was the text last updated
  • Could you expect that there are more recent developments?
  • In case of references to other sources, how recent are these?

Reliability

Authority
  • Is it clear who wrote the information? What authority does the writer or organization have?
  • Has the website been created by someone on behalf of an institution/organization/association?
  • What is his background and has he published previously
  • Are there any contact details? Is something said about the purpose and realization of the website? What is the objective of the site?
Accuracy
  • Are the facts on the site correct?
  • Are opinions substantiated with facts, based on solid grounds?
Objectivity
  • Is the information reported objectively?
  • Does the website mainly contain facts or opinions?
  • What is the purpose of the site? Informative, opinion-forming, commercial, entertaining, ... What interests do the author (s) have?
    If you want to check this, search on the site for parts such as: About this site, Disclaimer or Colophon. You can also get information from the web address:
    .org = non-profit
    .gov = government
    .edu or .ac.uk = education, often a university
    .com = business, commercial
    .info = for companies, non-profit or commercial
    member.chello.nl/; geocities.com/users/ = personal
Quality of the website
  • What does the site look like? Professional, with a search tool, sitemap, disclaimer or colophon, well-chosen layout, functioning hyperlinks, ...
  • Who is the publisher? A professional association or society, institution, publisher, ...
Verifiability
  • Are the facts or data verifiable?
  • Are there professional organizations / websites that refer to this site?
    Many search engines have the facility to report this.
  • Are the references correct? What are the sources?

How to spot fake wews

The Invisible or Deep Web

The internet is an iceberg. What we access every day through popular search engines like Google is referred to as the Surface Web. These familiar search engines crawl through trillions of pages and bring content to us on demand.  However, this represents only the tip of the iceberg.

Beneath the Surface Web is what is referred to as the Deep or Invisible Web. There are many high-value collections to be found within the invisible web. Some of the material found there include: academic studies and papers, scientific research, academic and corporate databases,​ medical records, financial data, legal cases, government data. Scientific information in particular often remains largely hidden or is not freely accessible for students. 

Zuyd Library subscribes to dozens of databases, in which scientific information is made accessible. Use the search engine DiZ or consult a specific database (See the A-Z list). Be sure to also consult the LibGuide of your academy or discipline.

The Dark Web or Darknet is a part of the internet used for illegal activity such as illegal trade, forums, and media exchange. 

The infographic below shows the internet at a glance.

An example

You write an article about healthy food. Using Google as search engine, you have found this website: www.nutritionist-resource.org.uk/

Relevance

  • The site offers a lot of information. The organization of the information is in alphabetical order through topics. You must already have a good concept of the information you need.
  • Up-to-date: the published articles by experts are dated and mainly recent. However, if you consult information through the topics list, it is impossible to discover the publication date. It is difficult to estimate how up-to-date these texts are.

Reliability

  • The authors intend to share information by this website and exchange experiences by means of a forum. The independence of the website is unclear, as it’s also a portal to nutritionists. Commercial interests are not far away. The nutritionists have to pay a monthly contribution to be included.
  • There is a colophon. Yet it is not entirely clear which organization or professionals administer the website. All articles are written by experts. Their information is up-to-date and provided with a reference list, and so can be checked.
  • The content of the website is aimed at a large audience. The site is popular with a scientific approach.
  • The articles are tagged and therefore can be searched by topic.

Conclusion

  • It is an excellent website with reasonably reliable and up-to-date information. For the sake of completeness and a scientific basis, it is advisable to consult extra sources.
  • The site looks professional, it has several search tools. The organization of the information on the homepage seems to depend somewhat on the popularity of what is happening in the world of food. Nevertheless, the information published by experts is very usefull.

 

 

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